We’re going to start in Colossians this morning with just kind of an introductory look at the opening few verses of this third chapter, so let me read it to you. “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
Now what I want to focus on in this opening part of the third chapter is the very clear command to, “Keep seeking the things above,” verse 1. And verse 2, “Set your mind on thing above, not on things that are on the earth.” And as we go through this chapter in months ahead we will learn a whole lot about what that means in a very specific way. But for this morning, at least we’ll have some kind of an introduction. And I want to use a lot of Scripture this morning, because the Scripture is the revelation of God, and on it’s own it bears all the power of heaven. So I’m going to have you have your Bible handy so that you can look at the Scriptures I draw to your attention.
But let me begin by just kind of reinforcing the title, “Leaving the World to Reach the World.” We all get the mission of the church in the world, we’re to reach the world with the gospel: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” We’re to go and we’re to bring the gospel, and then we’re to teach them to observe everything the Lord has commanded them, make disciples. That’s the Great Commission. We’re here for the purpose of calling to salvation from a human viewpoint those whom God will call from His divine sovereign will. So we have been left in the world as the church for the purposes of evangelism. We’re here for that sole purpose, to bring the gospel to those whom the Father has chosen, so that they can hear it and believe and be saved, and the Lord can gather His people in. We are the instrument; He does this through believers, through the church.
Now I think we all understand that. We all understand the Great Commission, we all get it. At the end of the Gospels the Lord says, “Now go into all the world, make disciples. Go, preach the gospel.” In the book of Acts He says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you. You’ll be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth,” and that’s exactly what has happened. So we all get the Great Commission, we understand. Let’s just say we understand the mission.
We also, I think, understand, for the most part, the message. We understand the message is the gospel that Christ came into the world as the incarnate Son of God, that He lived a sinless life after having been born of a virgin, that He died a substitutionary death. He rose literally physically from the grave, He ascended into heaven, He sits at the right hand of the Father on high, and He intercedes for us. We understand that. We understand the history of our Lord’s incarnation. We understand the purpose of it; it is to bring salvation. He came to give His life for His people. He came to be the sacrifice that would satisfy God. So we get the gospel message that Christ lived, died, rose again for our salvation.
But what the church seems to be having trouble with is the method, the method. The church has been taken captive by a kind of pragmatism that it seems it cannot shake, and I think that pragmatism is dealt with in the simple statements that I just pointed out to you in verses 1 and 2: “Keep seeking the things above, and set your mind on things above.” Rather than doing that, rather than setting its mind on heaven, rather than seeking what is above, believers today, and even church leaders today, seem to be preoccupied with seeking things that are below. The actual purpose seems to be to best assess the world around us and do the most we can to make some kind of superficial alterations in our economics or in our social structure or in our cultural definitions. The church seems to be earthbound. And, of course, that would be satanic strategy, wouldn’t it. If we’re called to heavenly things, then Satan would want to make sure we got trapped in earthly things. And that has been the death of churches throughout church history. But it seems to be that even today, a kind of evangelical pragmatism where we understand the mission, we even understand the message, but we really are confused about the method.
Bible-claiming, Bible-believing churches I’m talking about are the ones that are confused and have no reason to be confused if they just kept reading the Bible they affirm. There’s a popular and widespread and fully embraced, I think, notion that to reach the world we have to become like the world. That’s basically the bottom line. We’ve got to become like the world. That is the common perspective of evangelical pragmatism. Pragmatism basically says we do what works, we do what attracts people, we give people what they want, we talk the way they like to talk, we play the way they like to play, we act the way they like to act, we like the things that they like. And the more common ground we can find with the world, the more effectively we build a bridge to them to give them the gospel. That’s essentially what pragmatism is. It seems to work, it draws a crowd, they like it; this has to be right. That’s what pragmatism says.
So the bottom line is the church needs to become as much like the world as possible. We need to give the unbelievers as much of what they want as possible. We need to adopt their cultural style, their fashion, their music, their entertainment, their media, their jargon as much as possible. We need to accept their cultural expectations for things like comfort, anonymity, self-fulfillment, acceptance, tolerance, affirmation – and you can fill out the list yourself.
And we need to sort of remove all the obstacles that offend them, things like sin, and righteousness, and judgment, and wrath, and eternal punishment, things that convict, things that indict, things that condemn. And we need to embrace as many social ideologies as possible. We need to really be open to feminism, we need to be open to homosexuality, same-sex marriage, sex outside of marriage, social justice, victimization, intersectionality, critical theory, social politics, because these are all the things that everybody’s caught up in. These are the things that they are advocating now. And unless we want to be isolated, we need to jump on the advocacy bandwagon. We need to essentially accept as many worldly norms as we can possibly accept. That is typical of the modern method to supposedly fulfill the Great Commission.
I wrote a book against this some years ago called Ashamed of the Gospel if you want a more thorough treatment of that kind of thinking. You can get a copy of the book Ashamed of the Gospel. It’s come out in I think three different iterations. The subtitle is When the Church Becomes Like the World, When the Church Becomes Like the World. So this is nothing new. When pragmatism first reared its ugly head, I was addressing it even then, and it’s just as pertinent as if it were just arriving on the scene even today.
Now is that the right strategy? Is that the way it ought to be? Are we supposed to find as many things as possible that are exactly what unconverted people want in a given culture and make sure we give them all of those? And that is what builds the bridge. Well, in reality that is the opposite of what the Bible says. That is absolutely opposite what God has called us to by way of methodology.
According to God’s Word, we have to leave the world to reach the world. We have to leave the world to reach the world. This is basic. Listen to the words of our Lord in John 8:23. He says to the Jewish leaders, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” You will never find in the entire ministry of our Lord in all of His interactions as recorded in the four Gospels any time where He accommodated the world in any way. Anytime where He occupied Himself with trying to set worldly disorder back into order, or worldly confusion back into sanity that you will not find a time when He wanted to deal with worldly economics or societal injustices or inequities. That belonged to the people who were the world. He said, “I am not of this world.”
In fact, later in John 18:36 He said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. My kingdom is not of this world. If it were of this world, My servants would fight.” In other words, “If My kingdom was of this world, we would engage the world. We would engage the world and we would fight within the framework of the world like so many others are fighting. We would be a part of the melee of human philosophies and ideologies colliding in the world. But My kingdom’s not of this world. So we don’t fight worldly battles.” He never engaged in politics, cultural reform, economic reform. He never tried to fix the world. There was no pragmatism in His ministry or that of the apostles.
There is no human philosophy in His evangelism or that of the apostles, and neither should there be in ours. I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that the strategy is exactly opposite what seems to be popular today. The strategy is to leave the world, to separate from the world, to abandon the world, to reach the world. In other words, to make the gospel believable we have to be different from the world, we have to be other than the world.
I want to show you that in several portions of Scripture. I think they’ll all be familiar to you, but I want you to hear them again. Romans 12. Romans 12, very beloved portion of Scripture, just the opening couple of verses. After eleven chapters of the glories of the gospel, Paul brings in a “therefore” based upon the glories of the gospel which he calls the mercies of God. Here’s what you’re to do: “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Okay, you’re a believer. You’ve become transformed by the gospel. You have one responsibility; that is, to see your entire life presenting yourself as a living sacrifice to God. That’s a heavenly act. That’s because you’re not of this world, you’re from above, you belong to the kingdom of heaven. And so, the initial responsibility you have as a believer is to give your life up to God in a way that is a sacrifice holy and acceptable to God. That is your initial act of spiritual service of worship.
So you start your worship by offering yourself to God. In other words, this is a whole giving of one’s self to divine purposes. This transcends the world. And on the back side of that, verse 2, “Do not be conformed to this world. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which good and acceptable and perfect.”
So what does it mean then, what does it mean to offer your life as a living sacrifice unto God, holy and acceptable to Him? What does that mean? It means that you do not conform to the world, but rather are transformed by the renewing of your mind. Your mind is renewed by the Word of God. And all you live for is to demonstrate what the will of God is.
So what does it mean then to live a risen life? What does it mean to leave the world? It means to live entirely within the framework of divine commands, entirely within the framework of what the will of God is, which is good and acceptable and perfect. We live to fulfill the will of God. In 2 Corinthians chapter 6, again a familiar passage. A similar emphasis is made here, verse 16: “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God.”
So we just said from Romans 12 that basically we are to offer our entire lives to God as an acceptable offering, a holy offering. And that is our act of worship; and that means that we are transformed and not conformed to the world, transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we live in the realm of the commands of God what is good and acceptable and perfect. And as we do that, obviously, we recognize this is consistent with who we are; for we are the temple of the living God. Just as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” This is consistent with the fact that God now takes up residence in us, right? God lives in us – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Really, the triune God lives within us. We are the temple of God.
So we are people of heaven. We are heavenly people. We are concerned to offer our lives as sacrifices to God and God alone. It’s a solo sacrifice, He is the only Lord; we give Him everything. This means that we are a temple unto Him. We are sacred in the total sense because God dwells in us.
Then verse 17 gives the implications of that, taken from Isaiah in the Old Testament: “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. What does that mean? “Come out from their midst and be separate, and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. If you’re a child of God, you have come out from the world, you have been separated from the world. This is a separation.
In Galatians chapter 1, verse 3, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” This is a doxology coming out of the heart of the apostle Paul over the fact that God and the Lord Jesus Christ have rescued us from this present evil age. We are separated from it. We are rescued from it.
In Philippians chapter 2, just to continue to see how consistent Scripture is on this, verse 15 says, “You are to prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God.” Now have you noticed all this language. We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. That’s our spiritual act of worship. We offer holy living sacrifices to Him. This means that because we are sacrifices to Him, we are separated from the world. We touch not the unclean thing. We come out from the world, we leave the world.
And here you have the same thing exactly in verse 15. You are to be blameless and innocent children of God. Picks up the same identification that we’re children of God. “We are to live above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in world, holding fast the word of life.”
So we are living in the middle of this crooked and perverse generation, and we appear as lights in the world. We don’t blur into the darkness, we appear as lights in the world. The point of that I think is pretty obvious. A believer is to be in stark contrast to the world, stark contrast to the world, as light is starkly contrasted to darkness.
Then one other Scripture for the moment, Titus chapter 2 and verse 11: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age. We are to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” We are to be manifestly the children of God. It is to be obvious to everyone that we belong to God, that we are other worldly, that we are not a part of this world.
Now this is challenging, because we’re still in this world, we’re still in this world. But while we are in this world, we are not to be of this world. And, of course, the Lord Jesus is the example of that. He was in this perverse and corrupt world – to borrow Paul’s words – and yet it never affected Him. He was the light shining in the darkness.
Now listen to what He said in John 15:18 and 19. “If the world hates you, you know that it’s hated Me before it hated you.” Just something to remind the pragmatists about. Christ Himself came into the world to preach the gospel and He was hated. He was hated by the mass of people. “He came to His own, His own received Him not.”
He was in the world, the world was made by Him, the world knew Him not. He was rejected. He was rejected digressively. He was rejected hatefully and hostilely, so that they actually executed Him. So I think that is basically the undoing of any pragmatic approach to evangelism, because our Lord Himself who was the shining light in the darkness, the light that was the purest light that ever walked on earth, and He was killed by the very world He came to preach to.
We shouldn’t expect friendship with the world. In fact, James says, “Friendship with the world is” – what? – “enmity with God.” You can’t get there. So the idea that you can find a method that makes unbelievers happy with you is folly. Even our Lord did not do that; and if He’s the model for evangelism – and He certainly is: “He came to seek and to save that which was lost.” Even our Lord didn’t have a strategy that basically won people over on some emotional or sentimental basis. Even our Lord had a strategy that didn’t minimize sin. In fact, it maximized sin. He said more about hell than anybody else.
So He says, “If the world hates you, you know it’s hated Me.” Verse 19, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you’re not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. You’re not of the world; I choose you out of the world.” So we live above the world. We live out of the world. We have to leave the world to reach the world, not become more and more and more like the world.
Over in the seventeenth chapter of John’s gospel, and verse 15, He said in His prayer to the Father, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the Evil One.” He doesn’t take us out of the world, He leaves us here. He prays that the Father would protect us from the Evil One; but He leaves us in the world. This is where we have to be to do the work that the church is called to do. We have to be in the world.
But we also have to be heavenly, heavenly. We live at a different level altogether; and this can be seen I think most beautifully in the person of Christ. He is the model. He is the model of an evangelist. He’s the model of someone seeking the lost. He wept over the city of Jerusalem. He was so emotionally torn even as God incarnate. He was so emotionally torn that He wept passionately over the lostness of Israel.
And had there been a better strategy, you can be sure He would have used it. If somehow the hostility could have been mitigated by some marketing strategy or some clever approach, our Lord would have used it. But keep in mind, first of all, who would be saved was already predetermined before the foundation of the world. And all He came to do was to preach the truth of the gospel so that those who were chosen by the Father could hear it and believe.
But what makes the gospel believable is the transformed life. I’ve said this repeatedly through the years, that you can preach the gospel to people all you want; but unless they see a transformed life by the power of the gospel, what’s the attraction. That’s why all the garbage in the church, all the sin and immorality at the leadership level in Christianity is so disastrous, because it basically turns all the claims of Christianity into hypocrisy and lies. You cannot tell me that Christ changes lives, makes you holy when you were before unholy if what I see is just more unholiness like everybody else, if religious people are just charlatans and frauds and phonies, and maybe in some cases the worst that men can be because of their hypocrisy and because they misuse the name of God and Christ, and, “There’s nothing in the gospel that attracts me.”
That’s why Jesus said, “Look, let your so shine before men, that they may see your” – what? – “your good works and glorify your Father who’s in heaven.” You are lights shining in the world, but only when they can see your good works and when it’s manifestly obvious things that are happening in your life are not normal, when they see that there’s a triumph over sin, there’s a triumph over iniquity, transgression, when they see that there’s a life full of gratitude and joy, love and virtue and humility, they can see the transformation. Pragmatism does nothing but make the gospel harder to communicate because it’s all mixed up with what the world loves. This has to be separated, separated to such a degree that even the one who was the greatest evangelist who ever walked was hated by the very people He came to reach.
I think sometimes we lose our perspective in the world in which we live. We lose our objectivity about the lostness of people. Happens once in a while that you have the opportunity maybe to go to some other country, maybe a third world country. I’ve done that a lot through the years. Whether it’s a third world country or a first world country, South America or Europe, when you get into some of these countries that you’re not a part of, there’s a sort of objectivity that settles in and you see the lostness maybe a little more clearly. Certainly that’s been my experience going to places like India, other very, very destitute places; and you see the massive lostness of humanity. And because it’s a culture you’re not a part of, there’s a clarity with which you see that.
But in the culture that you are a part of, you lose that clarity, because you get caught up in living partly in the heavenlies and partly on earth. Your emotions, your attitudes, your thoughts, your interests are partly kingdom interests and partly worldly interests. And so there’s not that clear, stark contrast that you have if you were standing, for example, in Calcutta on the Hooghly Bridge with a million beggars, and you would see it in a different way. But they’re no more lost than the people in your neighborhood or the people anywhere else in the world. But we get softened up by the culture in which we live. And you can’t get any softer than to try to make the church look like the culture.
Paul said, “Come out from among them and be separate.” What does that mean? It means that you’re above the things of this earth. You don’t live in this kingdom, you live in the kingdom of heaven. You have been literally blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ. So that’s why – back to our text – in Colossians 3, Paul starts by saying, “Therefore.” The first two chapters he’s talked about salvation. The first two chapters he talked about Christ and what He did for us. I read the second chapter for you; he does the same in the first chapter.
So because you have been redeemed, because you have been transformed, because you have been forgiven, because Christ paid the debt for your sins, “Therefore since” – instead of if, because this is not hypothetical, this is factual – “since you have been raised up with Christ, you have died with Him, you have risen with Him,” – he has been saying that in the opening two chapters – “you’re a citizen of the kingdom, you’re a part of the household of God. Since this is true that you died and were raised up with Christ,” – here’s the command – “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth.” That is a general command. That is the first sweeping command in response to gospel privilege. We have entered into a new kingdom. We’re not part of this world, we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
Listen to the language of the apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 2 as he speaks about this. Again, these are familiar verses. But look at Ephesians 2:18, “Through Christ, the one who through His cross saved us,” – as he says in the previous verses – “through Christ we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” So we have access to heaven; that’s constant access. We come boldly before the throne of grace for help in time of need. We have access to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit by the work of the Son. “So then” – verse 19 – “you are no longer strangers and aliens,” – you were strangers and aliens to God, strangers and aliens, foreigners to the kingdom of heaven – “but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.”
You belong to the heavenly family. You are part of the household of God. You are no longer strangers and aliens, you are fellow citizens with the saints. You’re members of God’s family, children of God. You’re part of the building of the church, verse 20, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you are also being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
This is magnificent language. You’re part of God’s family, you have access to the Father. You have been given the Holy Spirit. You are part of the church, the edifice of the church that’s being built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. The corner stone is Christ. You are being built collectively into a holy temple for the Lord to dwell in. You are not only an individual temple, you are collectively the temple of the Lord, the dwelling place of God by His Spirit. This is amazing language. We are heavenly beings.
Listen, the fact of your salvation was a greater change than you’ll experience at your death. At your death, you have subtraction, you lose your fallen flesh. That’s subtraction when you die. But at salvation, you were given a new and eternal nature; that’s forever. That was the transformation of all transformations.
Look at Philippians chapter 3, just a couple more of these important Scriptures, verse 19, talking about unbelievers, “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite,” – and that defines them in general – “whose glory is in their shame,” – in other words, they find their satisfaction in shame. They worship their own appetite, their own desires; they’re headed for destruction. But notice the last indictment – “who set their minds on earthly things.” That’s how people who are on the way to destruction live, people whose God is their appetite, whose glory is in their shame.
Verse 20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of His power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth.
I can’t resist taking you back to 2 Corinthians for just a moment, and then I’ll give you one more. Second Corinthians 4:16, Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, we do not lose heart, but through our outer man is decaying, our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
Rather than try to mitigate suffering, Paul went in and preached the gospel and took the suffering, and he said the suffering actually instead of being a negative was a positive because it was earning for him an eternal weight of glory. So if you try to mitigate the suffering, if you try to mitigate the hostility, if you try to find a pathway for nonbelievers to like you rather than to face the realities, you’re not only missing the point of getting them the truth, but you’re forfeiting even an eternal reward. How interesting is that. Paul says, “Look, I’ll take the momentary light affliction that comes, because I preach the truth of the gospel, because in its place will come an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison.” Then he says this: “Here’s what motivates me. We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, the things which are not seen are eternal.”
We live in a realm where we see the invisible. We see spiritual realities. Everything that is temporal is going to burn up, all of it. Anything that somebody does to adjust life in the world is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; what good does that do when it’s all going down. We don’t look at the world the way other people look at the world because we’re citizens of the kingdom.
I can’t resist this one more portion of Scripture: 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Did you get that? We are to proclaim the excellencies of Christ who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We are the light, we live in the light; we are the people of the light, we shine as lights in the darkness.
Look at it again. What titles: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. “You were once not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers,” – now you are aliens and strangers to the world, where once you were aliens and strangers to God – “but as aliens and strangers to the world, abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against a soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the nations,” – end of verse 12 – “because of your good deeds, as they observe them, they will glorify God in the day of visitation.” You want somebody to come to the end of their life and face God and glorify God, you want that to happen in someone’s life, then your good deeds will lay the foundation for that, your good deeds. It’s not about your strategy, it’s about your holiness that makes the gospel believable.
So we live in the heavenlies. Everything we love and everything we’re part of is in heaven: our Father is there, our Savior is there, our inheritance is there, our home is there, our citizenship is there, our reward is there – it’s all there. All the virtues we love are heavenly virtues. All the truths we love are heavenly truths. All the enterprises that we want to engage in are heavenly enterprises. This is a life that is consumed with focusing on what is heavenly, what is eternal. And that means it’s focused on Christ who is the embodiment of all of that.
We want to draw down Christlikeness, we want to be like Him, so we gaze at His glory, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and are changed into His image from one level of glory to the next. As we look heavenward and we see the glory of Christ seated at the right hand of God, as Paul says in Colossians 3, as we see Him sitting on His throne we contemplate His glory, our vision of Christ is transformed into our own hearts so that we become more like Him, more like Christ. So what we want to draw down out of Christ is His truth and His virtue, His understanding, His knowledge, so that, as we read in chapter 2, we can have the full understanding of the mystery that is Christ, the full understanding of what is His and what is ours in Him. In Him we are complete, in Him dwells all the fullness of Godhead bodily; and we are in Him. And that chapter I read, chapter 2, it says, “In Him, in Him, in Him, in Him,” five or six times.
So this heavenly focus is a focus on Christ. We want to do the will of God; that’s a heavenward life. And we want to do what God wills and only what God wills. We want to fulfill His purpose in His way. We want to be preoccupied with Christ. We want to draw down all the virtues that belong to Christ. This is how we want to be.
Go down to verse 12. “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,” – be like the Lord – “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience; bearing with one another, forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your heart to the Lord. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” That’s living a heavenly life, drawing down all the truth and all the virtue from heaven into your life.
So he says in verse 1, “Keep seeking.” This is a lifelong pursuit: “Keep seeking.” What does it mean to keep seeking? It’s explained in verse 2. It’s a mental exercise, it’s a mental process. “Keep seeking by setting your minds on the things above, not on things of the earth.”
Again, I just say Christians get sucked into so many earthly things. What do you spend most of your time thinking about? What preoccupies you? What irritates you? What exhilarates you? Where are your joys and where are your disappointments located, in this world or in the heavenly realm? What moves your heart? What occupies your emotions?
Do you live in this world in the manner that the songwriter put when he wrote, “Heaven above is softer blue, earth around is sweeter green; something lives in every hue, Christless eyes have never seen. Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine, since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine”? Do you live so united with Christ that the whole world takes on the manifestation of the glory of God and the beauty of its own creation? Can you see past the corruption to the beauty of God in the world? Be constantly seeking that.
And it’s a mental thing. Look, there were false teachers in Corinth who wanted to tell the Corinthians that they had elevated to a higher level of knowledge, that they had some secret knowledge. Later they were known as Gnostics. The people with the secret knowledge, the people with the esoteric elevated insight, our Lord is not offering just another form of asceticism here, just another form of mysticism when He says, “Set your affections on things above.” He’s not talking about pie in the sky, living in some foggy notion of contemplation. He’s saying, “If you want to live in the heavenlies, get your mind set on things that belong to the heavenlies and pursue those all your life long, thing above. Seek what Christ seeks for you.” “Whatever you ask in His name, He’ll give it to you, that the Father may be glorified,” John 14.
All the resources, all the riches, all the supply of heaven, all the virtues and all the truth in heaven is available to you. If you seek, the Lord will give. Live in the heavenlies, don’t get caught up in the earth. And when people see heavenly lives, the gospel becomes believable. You must not only seek heaven, but you must think heaven; and all that is heaven’s is revealed on the pages of Scripture.
Where is your mind? What are you seeking? What occupies your life? I hope it’s heaven, and I hope that heavenly occupation shows up in heavenly living. That’s how we leave the world to reach the world.
Father, we thank You for this wonderful portion of Scripture. We thank You that our life is hidden with Christ in God, that even though we’re here on this earth, since we have died with Him and risen with Him and are in Him, our life is hidden with Him in Your presence. We are already in the heavenlies. We are already in Christ, Christ in us. We are citizens of glory. It doesn’t yet appear what we shall be, but we know when we shall see Christ we’ll be like Him.
Father, thank You for not just saving us, not just putting us into the death of Christ so that we died to sin, but placing us in the resurrection of Christ so that we now live in the heavenlies. All the virtue and all the truth of heaven occupies our minds and our hearts. We feed on that. We live like the Savior did, above the world. We leave the world behind to reach the world. May we be faithful, Lord, to so live, that it brings glory to the One who redeemed us, we ask in His name.
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